Henderson has never been a coordinator before in two decades of coaching, but Jets coach Herm Edwards expressed confidence that the Baltimore native can energize a defense that ranked 22nd last season under former defensive boss Ted Cottrell.
Henderson coached two Pro Bowl selections in safety Ed Reed and cornerback Chris McAlister and helped guide Baltimore through its transition from a veteran-laden Super Bowl winner to a youthful team reshaped by the reality of the NFL salary cap.
"Donnie can be a coordinator in this league, no doubt about it," Edwards said in a Friday conference call that will likely precede Henderson being introduced today in another conference call. "When they blew up the Ravens after they went to the Super Bowl, he had to coach those guys, and he did a great job.
"I've known Donnie for a long time. He's good with players, very demanding, detailed, organized, and energetic. He's gone under the radar screen, but I interviewed him because he's a good coach."
Henderson's hiring marks the end of a process that included his interview nearly three weeks ago and the Jets' search being stalled by these candidates taking jobs elsewhere: Gregg Williams (Washington Redskins), Ron Rivera (Chicago Bears), Dick Jauron (Detroit Lions), Gunther Cunningham (Kansas City Chiefs) and Tim Lewis (New York Giants). Plus, Tampa Bay blocked defensive line coach Rod Marinelli from interviewing.
Edwards conceded Friday that he was "interviewed out," and seemed unlikely to wait until after the Super Bowl to try to woo New England Patriots secondary coach Eric Mangini, a former Cleveland Browns and Ravens assistant.
Henderson played defensive back at Utah State and has coached at his alma mater. He also has stints at the University of Houston, where he was assistant head coach before joining the Ravens as assistant secondary coach in 1999, Arizona State, Cal and Idaho.
The Jets, Henderson has acknowledged, need to overhaul their personnel to become younger and faster. That likely means linebackers Mo Lewis and Marvin Jones being phased out along with defensive backs Aaron Beasley and Sam Garnes.
"Herm is aware that the personnel needs to be upgraded, and I think he's willing to do what has to be done," Henderson said. "There's enough of a nucleus to get things started and instill some toughness and tempo."
Meanwhile, the Ravens will have a position to fill, and will likely add former New York Giants defensive coordinator Johnnie Lynn, who also interviewed with the Jets. Ravens assistant secondary coach Dennis Thurman will garner consideration from coach Brian Billick, too.
The Jets' deepest unit is the defensive line, which features John Abraham, Dewayne Robertson, Jason Ferguson, Josh Evans and Shaun Ellis. Edwards wants to implement a more aggressive scheme after finishing 28th against the run this year.
Henderson will have added responsibilities, including the demands of living and working in the nation's media capital.
"Unless you give a guy an opportunity, you never know how good the guy is going to be," Edwards said. "He has done some things that other guys maybe hadn't done. Maybe he has not been in a coordinator's position, but you know he is qualified.
"He has paid his dues, worked his way up the ladder and you feel he's going to be a good coordinator although he hasn't done it. You never worry about it. You never look back."
Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.